Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to explain to outsiders, what a performance of classical music actually entails. Questions, that we often meet:
Why do you play the same songs again and again?
Why don’t you write your own music?
Why can’t I just listen to a recording of the same piece, instead of going to a live performance?
And the deeper question:
In what way are classical musicians actually artists, aren’t you just reproducing the works of other people?
Because few people today have the experience of spending years and years trying to master the great classical masterworks, we classical musicians should probably be better at explaning this.
So here is my little sci-fi story:
Imagine a planet far away, very similar to ours, but with one small difference: They don’t have paint than can stick for a longer time (bear with me here). So when you start applying painting to a canvas, it stays on for maximum of two hours.
We could call the planet Bachtune 🙂
On Bachtune you have similar masterworks of the visual arts like Earth, for instance Lina Mosa, Starry Day (the planet has a binary star system), Fire Lily Pond and so on.
These art works exist only as extremely complex instructions how to paint them. The instruction are written in a stringent sign language, with the actual emotional content hinted, but not explicitly controlled by the creator.
To read, understand and most importantly be able to paint a picture on the spot from these instructions, takes years and years to learn, and is the role of a small group of art professionals, let’s call them ‘painticians’.
These painticians are the center of performances on big venues, where the piece of art is painted live by the paintician (remember, that paint on Bachtune is not permanent). The best painticians master the craft in such a way, and with such an emotional and intellectual strength, that the final painting both is true to the creators original idea, but also via the paintician’s personality moves and inspires the audience in new ways.
Every paintician reads, understand and paints the work in slightly different ways, so there is no way of saying exactly, where the ‘real’ art work resides. It exists both in the written instructions as well a the live creation.
And a very big part of the artistic experience on Bachtune, is watching the master piece come to life in front of you. There do exist video recordings of painticians painting great pieces of art. But still the live performances are the most popular, because every time something different happens.
And even if you have seen the art work come to life many times, every new version can add to your total understanding of the work. And experiencing the colors and strokes happening in front of your eyes is completely different than experiencing a recorded version. Because it is inheritably unpredictable, and can – on the right day, with the right paintician, with the right audience – be a sublime and collective experience for everybody involved.
This is what we do.
See also About Interpretation
Kære Søren Rastogi,
Vi kender vist ikke hinanden, men har med interesse læst dine indlæg og betragtninger om vi musikeres ofte dilemma ved opførelse af værker der ofte høres, eller kendte, og derfor næsten har en forudskrevet måde at spille stykket på? Jeg arbejder på at gennemfører en slags historisk optagelse af en dansk trombonekoncert, hvor komponisten bl.a. ønskede et andet tempo end han selv oprindeligt skrev på noden, men internationalt har bidt sig fast i et utal af indspilninger. Det er
en længere historie, men den korte version er, hvis det lykkes mig at skaffe tilstrækkelige midler til en (måske CD?) optagelse af værker for trombone og klaver af dansk oprindelse, er jeg på jagt efter en pianist som kunne have lyst til at “lege med” , og måske var det noget for dig? Jeg er lidt ophængt i dag -skal spille til bisættelse af tidligere kollega – men kan jo tale samme de nærmeste dage? Er nu bosiddende i Sønderborg, men se min website. Hilsen Carsten Svanberg 10/9-22